(JNS.org) The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has barred a group of 37 orphans in Gaza from visiting Israel as part of a peace-building trip meant to heal wounds between the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to trip organizers, the group, which included children ages 13-16, was turned back by Hamas authorities at the last minute at the Erez border crossing into Israel. The group had received approval from Israeli authorities for the week-long trip.
“This was a suspicious visit that aimed to normalize our children with the Zionist occupation,” said Hamas spokesman Eyad al-Buzom, the New York Times reported. “In order to protect our sons, we prevented them from visiting the occupation,” he said.
Yoel Marshak, an Israeli who helped organize the trip, said he was shocked and saddened by the last minute cancelation by Hamas.
“In 20 or 30 years, these children will be the leaders in Gaza,” Marshak said, the New York Times reported. “The idea was to give them a positive experience in Israel,” he added.
The children were scheduled to tour Arab towns in Israel as well as areas in southern Israel that are under threat of Gaza rockets. They were also scheduled to attend a performance by a Jewish-Arab band, to visit a mixed Jewish-Arab school, meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and take part in a Tel Aviv beach party as well as a safari.